Friday, June 28, 2013

Running Update

It's been almost four weeks since I was cleared to start running again after my month off. I've been easing back into things, and I'm not yet back to where I was, but I know that I'm getting there.

In the month before my lung collapsed, I was running about 35 miles a week. An average week consisted of two 6 mile runs, three 5 mile runs, one eight mile run and an off day.

Then I took off for 34 days.

I wanted to share my return to running because I think many people find it difficult to figure out how to get back into the routine after an illness. Obviously, depending on the type of illness you have, things are going to vary so this isn't a plan I'm recommending to anyone- just sharing my own experience.

The weather has been a big factor in my return to running. It's important to run regularly when the weather is transitioning from cold to hot because it gives your body a chance to adjust slowly. I missed out on that month so I was jumping right in to hot, humid DC summer weather. I just kept this in mind and I haven't pushed myself at all. Even a month in, I'm not running hard yet- probably 9 minute pace or a little over that on all my runs.

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Week 1- 11 miles

  • Monday: 1 mile
  • Tuesday: 2 miles
  • Wednesday: 2 miles
  • Thursday: 2 miles
  • Friday: 2 miles
  • Saturday: Off
  • Sunday: 2 miles

Week 2- 16 miles

  • Monday: 2 miles
  • Tuesday: 2 miles
  • Wednesday: 3 miles
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: 3 miles
  • Saturday: 3 miles
  • Sunday: 3 miles

Week 3- 20 miles

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 3 miles
  • Wednesday: 3 miles
  • Thursday: 5 miles
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: 4 miles
  • Sunday: 5 miles

Week 4- 24 miles

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 4 miles
  • Wednesday: 4 miles
  • Thursday: 4 miles
  • Friday: 4 miles 
  • Saturday: 4 miles (guessing)
  • Sunday: 4 miles (guessing)

I'm really happy with the progression! I credit Brian for keeping me in check. I probably would have started to push it a little bit more if I was deciding this all on my own. A couple of weeks ago, it really felt like it would take forever to get back to where I was, but now I think I am getting close!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

[Blog] Love Me

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

^ Familiar with Bloglovin? Maybe not, but my beloved Google Reader is going to disappear in less than a week and it's really time to move on. I know they told us months ago, but I've been continuing to visit www.google.com/reader every day and clicking away that annoying message telling me that it won't be available beginning July 1. 



However, it's really come to the point I can't ignore it anymore. I've added all of my Reader blogs to both Feedly and Bloglovin to see how I like them.



In case you are in the dark here, Google Reader is an app that you can go on and read all of the blogs you choose to follow in one place. It's so easy. Bloglovin and Feedly provide the same service, but in their attempts to be a little fancier, I actually find them more annoying. Currently, Bloglovin is winning because when you read blogs through that application, bloggers receive page views, whereas when you read a blog on Feedly it does not show the blogger that you've read their content. Page view counts are about as exciting as it gets, so I'm trying to help my fellow bloggers out and encourage you to do the same :)



Now, let's talk food. My  mother seems concerned that I've been posting an assortment of topics on my FOOD blog, so I've decided to get back to it. 

Lately, I've been putting together some grain-based side dishes.

I love that they're inexpensive and the ingredients tend to be in my kitchen at all times- grains bought in bulk, dried herbs, frozen vegetables, etc.



I also love that I can make large quantities and eat them for lunches the rest of the week. 

I also love when I'm not the only one who loves them!



Brian's not a big white rice guy. He also isn't a fan of cold pasta salads. I get that and sometimes I still make them and he eats it, but isn't it so much more fun to make something that you know your dining companion is going to love?

Start with an inexpensive whole grain, in this case it was brown rice. Then get creative with your favorite flavors- sauteed garlic and onion. Think texture and add pine nuts. Now, add frozen spinach simply because it goes with everything.



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Spinach and Pine Nut Rice-A-Roni


Serves four



Ingredients


  • 2  cups unsalted vegetable broth (preferably homemade)
  • 
1 cup brown rice
  • 
1/2 onion

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
  • 
salt and pepper, to taste



Directions


  1. Add broth and brown rice to a sauce pan and bring to a boil; then, reduce heat to low and put a lid on it until all of the broth is absorbed- about 20 minutes
  2. 
While the rice is simmering, chop up your onions and garlic

  3. Add onions and garlic to a saute pan with the olive oil and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes

  4. Remove onions and garlic from heat and add pine nuts

  5. When the rice has absorbed all of the broth, remove the lid and add the onion mixture as well as the frozen spinach

  6. Continue to cook the rice on low for about 8 minutes, or just until the spinach is defrosted and the rice is hot

  7. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper, to taste

It helped that I served this alongside some incredible pork chops. Honestly, some of the best pork chops I've ever made. I didn't think I would eat this whole plate, but I totally did and it was totally worth it.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Things We Do

I live in a city. I live the city life- no car, small closets, and high prices. But, it wasn't always this way.

Nope, once upon a time I lived in Upstate New York and did things like swim in a lake, walk around outside barefoot and go fishing.

These days, I don't swim in the Potomac (which would result in near a certain death from some type of pathogenic microorganism), walk barefoot on the sidewalk (hepatitis, anyone?) or fish.

Well, not until last weekend.

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Gone fishin'

My parents and my brother took Brian and I out to a friend's property with a pond to re-live the glory days. We used to fish up in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River, but this pond was a much shorter drive.

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We all caught a few fish. As far as quantity, I think Brian won that one, but my mom reeled in the biggest fish of the day.

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It should be noted that I caught a fish that was likely bigger, but we weren't really prepared for something so large and when the fish tangled himself up weeds my line snapped :(

Still had a good time! I was so covered in worm and fish guts by the end of the day. So much so that I may have to retire that shirt from NCA Collegiate Cheer Nationals.

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Just so you know, we weren't really into eating pond bass, so we tossed all of our fish back into the water and ate cookout leftovers for dinner.

After dinner, Brian and I took a drive to Abbott's.

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If you live in Rochester, you know Abbott's. They sell frozen custard and it is beyond delicious. So rich and creamy. I had a chocolate cone with chocolate sprinkles, but it was melty and disappeared way before I could get out my camera.

Brian had a good time making friends, too.

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And, that was that! The next day we were up for that early flight home. It's always nice to go home and see everyone. As of right now, I'm not sure when I'll be going back for another visit, but I hope to make one happen before Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Weekend Up North

Another weekend away! Yesterday morning at 4 AM, Brian and I woke up in Rochester, NY and made the commute into DC for work at 9 AM.

We spent the weekend in Rochester visiting my family!

Friday morning we headed from DC to Baltimore for a flight to Rochester. We got in, ate some food and then my mom and I headed out for pedicures. So relaxing! I was way overdue and the nail tech was a little hard on me. She tried to do that cheese grater thing and I wasn't having it.

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No way.

After, we went downtown for dinner.

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It was the early bird special at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. They don't take reservations, so we went really early. Got right in and it was fantastic. I had ribs, mac and cheese and kale. No pics because I was on vacay!

The next day, we had the the extended family over to grill outside.

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Everyone in my family lives near Rochester, so when I go him I get to see everyone. We had strict rules about adults getting sprayed with water. Clearly, they were well followed.

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Lots of food:

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Grandma Kober's macaroni salad, Grandma Betty's potato salad and Aunt Lynne's… something? It was delicious, whatever it was! Raspberries and jello mixed together. Mmm.

Not pictured: barbecue baked beans and fruit salad. Both delicious! And, meat for the grill of course.

Everything was good, but the star of the show was Aunt Debbie's Texas Caviar.

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So yummy. Maybe she'll share the recipe? I remember something about sugar and jalapeƱos. 

Sunday was fun as well, but that's a story for another day because I am tired. Last night, we grabbed dinner and collapsed on the couch with it.

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I picked up a rotisserie chicken from Glen's Garden Market and a side of Caesar kale salad. Plus some fresh corn on the side.

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Easy and delicious.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Whirlwind

[Found it! This was the post that went missing yesterday. Still not sure what happened, but I'm glad it didn't completely disappear.]

I've made it back! It feels like I've been gone for a long time, but the conference was only a few days. I think having to work over the weekend messes with your mind a little. 

I headed out at 4 AM on Thursday morning to catch my bus at Union Station.

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How was the Greyhound experience? Honestly, it wasn't terrible. Timing-wise, it worked out nicely because even with a six hour bus ride, I beat most of my coworkers who were flying because of weather-related delays. 

The biggest downside was that when we stopped in Baltimore to pick people up, a guy got on and asked if the seat next to me was open. I said yes, because it was, but then I looked behind me and saw tons of completely empty seats… so there was no reason to have to sit next to someone. I got up and moved to another seat, problem solved. Then we stopped for coffee and after I got back on the bus, the guy came and sat ACROSS from me. WHAT? I was totally creeped out and didn't sleep for the rest of the ride. Luckily, I made it safely to my destination- Pittsburgh- and he stayed on the bus to go somewhere else. 

I was impressed with the city of Pittsburgh! Most of the time I was working inside a conference center, but I was able to go out to dinner twice, have a free afternoon and get morning runs in. It was really pretty down by the Allegheny River, which is close to where I was staying. There's a jogging path on either side of the water, lots of bridges and the sports stadiums are right there. It was also really clean.

There was more of a big city feel than I was expecting, and a fun couple of streets with nice restaurants and bars. 

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I was able to get in some fun while I was working- we had a reception at the Andy Warhol Museum one night, and a bridge party with Brazilian dancers.

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Cloud room at the Andy Warhol Museum- this was pretty fun :)

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Andy Warhol Museum

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Bridge party with dancers

The conference ended at noon on Sunday, but I wasn't on a flight until 7 PM so I had time to explore. I went for a run (in the pouring rain) and then sat in a coffee shop with a book. Eventually, the rain stopped and I decided to check out some traditional Pittsburgh food.

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From what I've heard, Primanti Brothers is it. Their specialty is a sandwich with French fries on it.

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I ordered a double egg sandwich with cheese. In addition to the fries, it also came with tomato and coleslaw made with vinegar instead of mayonnaise. 

It was good! I sat outside and enjoyed it and I'm glad that I tried it. Would I order it again? Not sure. Maybe if it was around and I didn't have to go out of my way for it. This would be particularly delicious after a few too many drinks!

Then I decided to walk through the Pittsburgh Pride festival and listen to some of the music. At this point, I caved to Ben and Jerry's. Eating an ice cream cone while listening to an outdoor concert was pretty incredible.

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I also had the most amazing ice cream flavor. Candy Bar Pie. It's new and only available in their scoop shops, which means my waistline is safe because we don't have any of those in DC.

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Peanut butter ice cream with chocolate chunks, fudge nougat and salty pretzel swirls (which I thought were chunks of peanut butter pie). It was SO good. So good. 

After the ice cream, it was time to head to the airport. It took a full hour to get through security, and while in line, I checked the weather:

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Apparently the Pittsburgh airport is on the moon.  Can anyone explain this? I even checked to see if there was a town named Moon, PA, but there is not!

The flight was fairly uneventful. It was 15 minutes late, but my lung also didn't collapse so overall I'd say that's a positive experience. When the flight landed, I ran off, jumped in a cap (the process of getting into a cab at Reagan is actually way more slow and tedious than I'm making it sound) and encouraged the driver to speed home. Brian was waiting with a Car2Go and as soon as I tossed my suitcase into the apartment we headed over to the 9:30 Club to see Glen Hansard.

We got these tickets awhile ago and were really excited about it, so I was thrilled not to miss it because of my flight. Glen Hansard was behind that movie Once that won an Academy Award for best song. He is in the band The Frames and also tours with the woman who co-starred with him in Once under the name The Swell Season. We've seen both Swell Season and The Frames at 9:30 Club, but this time he was doing some solo stuff. It was fantastic. He performed for three hours. I can't imagine doing that! I was tired and my feet were killing me after the weekend, but it was absolutely worth it!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Clueless

This morning, I set up a really great recap post about my trip to Pittsburgh. Where is it? I'm clueless. I use Mars Edit to create my posts and then hit 'send to blog.' I hit that button and then went on my run. Got to work and there is nothing there! The good news is that the post is saved on my computer at home. The bad news is that I'm already a day into the week without a post!

Here's a little something to hold us over until I can get the post up tomorrow...




Any guesses on what's inside of this sandwich?
 
As you can tell, there were a few splurges on this trip. I'm happy to say that I managed to get a workout in every single day! I was able to run in the mornings- it was a really nice/ safe area and the sun came up around 5:30 AM so I headed out at 5:40 AM and ran three miles on each day. The first day, I woke up at 5 AM to see what the sunrise situation was, and ended up fitting in an ab workout before my run. The other two days were just runs with a little bit of ab work. It was SO pretty out in the morning with the sun coming up over the river. I wish I had brought my phone to get some pictures from one of the bridges, but I kept thinking, "Oh, I'll do that on Sunday." It poured on Sunday, so my camera stayed in the hotel room.
 
Right now, I'm happy to be home again and back in the routine for a few days before my next trip... I've got a fun one coming up!
 


Friday, June 14, 2013

Snacks of Choice

I kind of think conferences are the worst. You are at them for days on end and have little freedom over your food choices. It’s like Kim-hell. (I might be slightly exaggerating)

To counter this, I’ve packed up a few snacks that I think can withstand the travel and satiate me in the event that I’m surrounded by sugar-laden pastries and mystery meat. I count on fruit to be available, and usually that’s the case. Veggies are a little harder to come by, but they’re also a challenge for packing so I’m kind of out of luck with that.

I stopped by both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to prepare for this adventure, and here’s what I’m taking with me. For some reason, as much as I hate packing clothes, I enjoy packing snacks! Love snacks.

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Larabars. So good and good for you! These are small and extra-portable so I can carry one or two with me at all times.

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Dried mangoes. Delicious and portable. One of the few fruits that it’s fairly easy to find at a good price, without added sugars.
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Ends & Pieces. This is a new find. Trader Joe’s makes fruit leather that is unsweetened fruit pulp and they sell it in strips. This bag of odds’n’ends is full of all the random pieces that don’t make the original cut. This bag was only about $2.50!
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Wasa Whole Grain Crackers. These contain whole grain rye flour, water, yeast and salt. Perfect whole wheat, real food option.
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Justin’s Honey Almond Butter. These mini almond butter packets are great because they are so portable. To be honest, I was hoping to find just plain peanut butter packets, but my Whole Foods didn’t have any. These contain almonds, honey powder (sugar, honey), palm fruit oil and salt. Obviously, not the best, but still I’ve heard good things and they’re a decent option for my Wasa crackers or a banana.
Almonds. Plain raw almonds. Easiest snack.
Am I crazy for packing so much? Maybe so, but four days is a long time to go with a processed diet when your body isn’t used to it. I think these supplies will help take care of breakfast and snacks, which are usually sugary pastries and cookies. I’m hoping to scout out some veggie trays at receptions and salads for my free meals.
What are your favorite travel snacks?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Packing & Moving

Early this morning I took off for a work conference that will last through the weekend. I’m not cleared by my doctor to fly… so I’ll be traveling six hours via Greyhound. Based on what I’ve heard, I’m not expecting it to be a great experience, but who knows? I’ll be sure to report back. Luckily, by the time I’ll be returning home I will have cleared the one month mark and can fly!

Packing is always my least favorite thing to do. I hate packing. I hate unpacking. I’m a list person though, so that does help to make this slightly less painful. What makes the list?

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  • My Vera Bradley suitcase. Love this suitcase! I received it as a high school graduation gift. It’s the maximum carry-on size, so I can fit more than the average person. It’s also super easy to spot and I’ve never seen anyone else with one like it!
  • Spare contacts. I can’t even imagine how awful life would be if I had a contact tear or something while I was away. It is seriously my number one priority and I never go anywhere without spares. I think something happened one time and I only had one contact for awhile so now I’m scared.
  • Tylenol. I would never pay $5 for two pills in a hotel gift shop, so I need to be prepared - Snacks. I don’t go anywhere without some good snacks. You’ll have to come back tomorrow for that post!
  • Running shoes. Part of my no-excuses workout philosophy includes working out while traveling or on vacation. Running shoes and workout clothes are required!

I honestly have no idea what to expect as far as workouts. The hotel I’m going to has a gym, but it’s not really open during the hours that I’ll be able to work out (5 AM!). They also have a map with some recommended running courses, but I don’t know if that’s something I’ll want to try- I’ll most likely decide when I get there. I’m planning on looking for some body weight workouts that I could do in my room. Julie always has some great workouts, so I went on her blog for inspiration. I’m looking at these options:

Wish me luck!

What are some other good on-the-go workouts?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday & a Blogger Fail

It's been awhile since I've posted one of these so I thought I'd join in this week

 Breakfast was nothing new. Creature of habit here-

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That's one gorgeous looking oatmeal! In the mix: 1/3 cup rolled oats, 2/3 cup milk, 1 banana and 1 tablespoon each of chia seeds, coconut and peanut butter.

I also had one of these:

Bucks
Homemade iced coffee with milk. I ended up buying another one when I was at Starbucks later with a friend. It cost me more than $3!  At home, I usually make coffee and then pour it into a Mason jar and place it in an ice bath. Then, before I head out I just fill my traveler with ice, pour the coffee in and top with milk. So easy. I try to make extra so I don't have to do this every day, and I just store it in the jar in the fridge.

Lunch was actually new and different today,

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I put the last of my cornbread quiche over a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.

Leftover green beans on the side.

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My afternoon snack was fairly typical, berries and plain Greek yogurt. Sadly, this was my only snack of the day! Not very helpful for the WIAW snacking theme! In case this helps, I was also prepared at work with some frozen edamame. I mentioned that this is one of my favorite snacks to bring to work lately, and I've been keeping some in the fridge at my office for emergencies.

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Those photos look much better when I take them at home the night before. I wish that worked on oatmeal photos too!

Dinner was when the blogger fail occurred. I forgot to photograph it! I thought I could maybe piece together some pictures, collage-style, and hope no one would notice.

I'm not sure it's quite that seamless.
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The sausage was one of our favorites- it's a buffalo and pork sausage from the market with cranberries and wine. It sounds kind of winter-y, but you can't taste the cranberries all that much, it's just a little sweeter. As someone who hates spicy, it works for me!

Zucchini and kale chips on the side… pretty typical around here.

Dessert ended up being a few squares of 72% dark chocolate on the couch while watching the Season 1 finale of Mad Men. (addicted to that!)

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Then I immediately fell asleep while Brian watched the NBA finals. Those two mile runs are really getting to me!

Today is my last day of work in the office. Tomorrow, I will be heading out (way) before the sun comes up to attend a conference and I have a million things to do before I am ready for that!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Homemade Mac & Cheese

I always preferred Velveeta boxed macaroni and cheese to the typical Kraft blue box. It was creamier and I liked the more substantial sauce. I also liked frozen mac and cheese a lot. Same thick, creamy cheese sauce.

Looking back, that stuff is really gross. :(

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The ingredient list for Velveeta Shells & Cheese:

Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Durum Wheat Flour, Glyceryl Monostearate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid); Cheese Sauce (Milk, Whey, Water, Canola Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Contains Less Than 2% of Sodium Alginate, Lactic Acid, Oleoresin Paprika [Color], Natural Flavor, Cheese Culture, Enzymes, Annatto [Color], Sorbic Acid As A Preservative). Contains; Wheat, Milk.

All of those items in bold are the 'cheese' sauce. Canola oil? Gross.

In case you hadn't guessed, I make my own mac & cheese these days! It's not nearly as hard as it sounds. In fact, it's really not that much more difficult than making boxed mac & cheese. I also can use my own cheese, ingredients: milk, cultures, salt and enzymes. 

When picking out cheese, I always buy a block of cheese versus the shreds and just grate it at home. The shreds have that powdery stuff to help keep it from sticking together. It's cellulose (wood pulp) and I'd just prefer not to use it! I also choose white cheese because the orange color is just food dye (unnecessary) and when its affordable I like to go for something grass fed, organic and local. The farmer's market is my favorite place to pick some up- the cheeses are just incredible- but, Trader Joe's is a great back up with a huge selection.

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(Yes, that mac & cheese was made with white cheese! The trace amount of mustard helps, as does the yolk of the egg. The eggs we get from the farmer's market have really bright orange yolks!)

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 box whole wheat pasta (shells, elbows or spirals work best)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz gouda, shredded

Directions

  1. Boil a pot of water and cook pasta until tender
  2. Remove pasta from heat, drain, toss with butter and return to pot
  3. Whisk together the half and half, egg, salt, pepper and mustard
  4. Slowly pour the half and half mixture into the pasta, stirring constantly
  5. Turn the heat under the pot on low
  6. Handful by handful, drop in the shredded cheese and stir continuously while adding in the cheese
  7. When the cheese is melted and mixed in (this takes about a minute) remove from heat and serve

This stuff is delicious. If you want, you can pop it into a casserole dish and sprinkle it with some breadcrumbs, butter and more cheese then bake it. Most of the time I just want to eat it immediately so we skip that step. 

The mixture of cheddar and gouda gives the cheese sauce a strong flavor (cheddar) with a creamy texture (gouda). I use regular yellow mustard versus the powdered mustard in most recipes because I don't use powdered mustard in any other recipes and never have it on hand. Just be careful to use a very small amount of yellow mustard!

This is so easy that I made two batches in a row last night- one for Brian and I, and another to drop off with a friend today. I'm tempted to use my leftover cheese make another batch to keep in my freezer for a back up dinner! Enjoy :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Rainbows and Strawberries

I focused on enjoying my last June weekend in DC! We kicked off the weekend with a traditional summer dinner.

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I picked up a package of short rib hot dogs from Glen's Garden Market last week. They were pretty delicious- I think they tasted less salty and more meaty than the average dog. The packaging did not contain any ingredient information (they were house-made at Glen's) so I really am not sure if they contain nitrates or not. Hopefully not!

On Saturday morning I took an inventory of our breakfast options- we had plenty of eggs, two slices of bacon and an onion. I decided to try a cornbread quiche.

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In addition to the cornbread and the egg, I added our two pieces of bacon, half an onion, about a cup of frozen spinach and some cheese. Unfortunately the cornbread that I used is pretty dry (we've had it before), but other than that I really liked this. Brian's not much of a baked egg dish kind of guy, but he did eat it!

After that, I headed off to a Junior League leadership event for a few hours and then came home for an episode of Mad Men.

Brian and I recently subscribed to Netflix and started Mad Men. I've been wanting to watch it for awhile so I'm enjoying that. I've also started Downton Abbey! Only two episodes in on that one though.

Saturday afternoon was the Pride Parade in DC! The parade is a huge event in the city and it goes through our neighborhood, so even though we obviously aren't gay, its still fun to go.

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I thought it was really nice to see so many area churches turn out for the event.
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Even the Mormon church and the National Cathedral!

I liked these signs a lot, too:

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We had a lot of fun; it's just a good time with a lot of happy people. Some of the floats tossed out candy and beaded necklaces. I had Skittles for the first time in forever :)

The rest of the weekend was more low-key. Takeout on Saturday night, my last trip (for awhile) to the farmer's market on Sunday morning and a trip out to Virginia with a friend to visit another friend and her sweet new baby.

I thought I was being super clever on Sunday night by making some chocolate covered strawberries with some of the delicious berries we picked up at the market. I put them in the freezer. What was I thinking? This was even before I started drinking wine.

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Not really edible.

I tossed them in the blender with a banana and some milk.

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Much better.

And, its the start of a new week! I'll be spending the first half of the week preparing for travel the second half of the week, so it should be pretty busy!